Rest in God

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God…Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (Exodus 20:8-9, 11, NIV).

Few concepts are as difficult to get a handle on as the Sabbath. How does the Sabbath apply to Christians today? What biblical principles for living can the believer draw from the fourth commandment?

To understand the relevance and applicability of the Sabbath for believers we must first understand what the Sabbath meant to the Hebrews. The Old Testament concept of Sabbath meant the complete stoppage of all labors to worship the Lord and reflect upon his goodness (to literally rest in God). The keeping of the Sabbath was a sign that a person was in covenant with God—to keep the Sabbath was to demonstrate your faith.

Technically, Sabbath is the cessation of activity, intermission, or rest. It is to take a break for a specific purpose and agenda—to draw close to God. The Sabbath requirement was God’s way of corralling his covenant (but not born-again) people into fellowship with him. In this sense, the Sabbath represents “sacred time,” or set aside time for God.

For believers today, the Sabbath commandment (a type of spirituality) finds its total fulfillment in the work of Jesus Christ. Paul said, “So do not let anyone make rules for you about eating and drinking or about a religious feast, a New Moon Festival, or a Sabbath day. These things were like a shadow of what was to come. But what is true and real has come and is found in Christ”(Colossians 2:16-17, NCV). Paul also explained that any future keeping of this type or shadow of Jesus is now strictly a matter of personal conscience and conviction: “In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. Each person should have a personal conviction about this matter” (Romans 14:5, NLT).

The Scriptures teach that the true Sabbath rest is a relationship and lifestyle rather than a certain day of the week. Jesus called out to the world to come find rest in him: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:28-30, MES).The rest God promises is ultimately found in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ: “My soul finds rest in God alone” (Psalm 62:1, NIV).

Jesus repeatedly ran into opposition from the Pharisees over his ministry activities on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is not something that people were ever to serve. It was an opportunity for God’s people to enjoy complete restoration. Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made to benefit people, and not people to benefit the Sabbath. And I, the Son of Man, am master even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28, NLT).Therefore, it makes perfect sense that Jesus would teach on the Sabbath, encourage on the Sabbath, make provision on the Sabbath, and heal on the Sabbath. In other words, the Sabbath rest found in our personal relationship with the Lord is for the total restoration of man, not for the codification of more religious activity.

The true, genuine rest of God on earth (only a glimpse of what waits for us in heaven) is not accessed through a certain day of the week, but through faith. We enter the rest of God by faith. The writer of Hebrews declared that the message of the gospel is of no value to those that hear but fail to combine what they hear with faith (Hebrews 4:2). Our rest on earth (and in heaven in the future) is compromised when we fail to develop and maintain the spirit of faith: “So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19, NIV).


What Is Faith?

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things of unseen” (KJV). The NIV renders this verse, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.”  Faith is not nothing. It is the invisible substance or heavenly matter from which everything in the universe, seen and unseen is derived. Faith is critical because without it we cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6).  Four times in Scripture we are told that the just shall live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38) which means that faith is the prescribed way for every believer to live.  It is the law of the kingdom of God (Romans 3:27) and the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4-5).

What passes for faith these days, however, is too often presumption or wishful thinking.  God honors Bible faith, not presumption, so it is critical to understand the difference between presumption and faith, and how faith is developed and used.  F. F. Bosworth famously said, “Faith begins where the will of God is known.” To know the will of God we must know his Word.  Unless our believing God is based on the promises of his word, we will most likely be in presumption, and God is not obligated to honor our presumption because we are only authorized to believe what God has said.

To understand the difference between faith and presumption, suppose someone tells a friend you are going to take their family to Disney World.  What would mark this as faith and separate it from presumption is if you actually told that person you were going to take them to Disney World. They have no right to believe that if you never said that.  It’s the same way with the Word of God.  We can’t believe God for things he didn’t say. We just can make something up he didn’t say and declare we are believing God for that because real Bible faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 1:17).

Faith does begin where the will of God is known, but it does not end there. Faith begins where the will of God is known, but it is established in grace, energized by love, developed on a blueprint of hope, undergirded by patience, released by confession, made alive by action, activated by praise, and identified by joy. The process begins when the Holy Spirit creates a vivid picture on your heart of what can be based on the Word. As Jerry Savelle said, “The heart is the canvas, the Word is the paint, and the Holy Spirit is the artist.” The inner image of your heart affects your decisions, direction, and ultimately your destiny. Change that image and you change your future.  You can be assured that any picture painted on your heart by the Holy Spirit using the Word of God is always faith and never presumption. That’s something you should believe every time.

No Más!

unknownPanamanian professional boxer Roberto Duran is considered to be one of the greatest fighters in history earning championship belts in four different weight classes.  The boxing world called him respectfully “Hands of Stone” because of his punching power.  Ironically, he is best known for losing his punch and quitting right in the middle of his championship fight with Sugar Ray Leonard, exclaiming, “no más” or no more.  Instead of going out a champion, the way he lived most of his life, Duran ended his boxing career and hung up his gloves perceived by the boxing world as a quitter.

The pressure is on believers all over the world to do the same thing.  The enemy knows that we are more than conquerors through Jesus, that we are always led in triumph in Christ, and that we have the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.  He cannot defeat us so he focuses instead on trying to provoke us into quitting because he knows that he cannot win without our willful surrender.  He could never defeat you, affect your right standing with God, or ever get God not to love you, but he can and does do everything he can to get you to quit on your right believing and right living.  So, all over the body of Christ too many Christians and Christian leaders are hanging up their gloves and quitting their spouses, cutting off friends, leaving their churches, vacating their ministries, and bankrupting their destinies.  Why?  Because they became weary in doing good instead of holding on to the promise that they would reap in due season if they did not quit (Galatians 6:9).  They started to focus on the limited negative at the expense of all the positive.

Every assignment, every attack, every confrontation, every disappointment, every setback, every loss, every inspired criticism, every agenda, and every perceived slight is designed to get you to quit, because quitting gets you off the path of God, and that was the devil’s goal all along.  Quitting indicates a believer has become demonized and is under the influence of the enemy and captive to do his will.  Regardless of whether we do it in the thralls of discouragement, the depths of depression, a fit of anger or offense, or with an arrogant smile on our face, quitting in violation of God’s word and will is a clear indicator that the enemy has pushed our buttons long enough that our troubled minds and roller coaster emotions are now driving our decisions rather than the voice of the Holy Spirit.

In these challenging times, the Lord would have us keep punching, to never give in, and to never give up.  That’s why he commanded (not just encouraged) Joshua to not be discouraged (Joshua 1).  Discouragement is a loss of spiritual courage, and the loss of that courage always precedes quitting.  I know as a believer and Christian leader that there are times you just want to hang it up, but the Lord needs you in your place, your family needs you to be steady, the Church needs you to be stable, and the world desperately needs you to model the hope you profess.

When you feel like quitting (1) on purpose put off that decision to quit, (2) take the time to flood your heart with the word of God and prayer, (3) get around people who are uplifting, challenging, and encouraging, (4) refuse to make decisions based on negative feelings or thoughts, (5) and remember God NEVER forgets a seed sown.  No matter how things look, you WILL reap in due season IF you do not quit!

Heavenly Tweets

Mark RandallAs most of you know, my mentor and close personal friend Mark Randall went home to be with the Lord after a long battle with congestive heart failure (CHF).  While preparing for his memorial service, I began to write some tweets complete with hash-tags I imagined and know he we would say based on our 31 year friendship.  I sat in my office with tears in my eyes laughing as I wrote.  “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22, NIV).  I thought if the tweets made me smile and laugh, they might be a blessing to others.  I decided to include them in the memorial service as well as share them with you today.  May we all be as present, focused, and dedicated as Mark in his relationship with Jesus and his ministry…

To close today, I wanted to share a series of heavenly tweets I have received from mark since he went home to be with Jesus. Apparently, his tech savvy has grown and I want to share the tele-tweets with you today…

  • By now you know I’m gone – #I made it   #pain-free   #halleLUjah
  • Perfect sight – #no more lost reading glasses
  • Guess what – no need for money in heaven – #no more lost checkbook
  • Jesus is more amazing than I could ever imagine – #my king    #speechless
  • Heaven is so beautiful – #Grand Canyon is just a hole in the ground
  • Just saw Mom Dad and Jay – #family reunion    #so happy
  • Worshipped the Lord with Jerry and Tim – #my voice is aMAZing
  • Just corrected Apostle Stephen on some theology – #I’m always right
  • Just saw my reflection in the golden streets – #can you say “hot”
  • Ran into the thief on the cross – tried to get him saved again – #old habits die hard
  • Going to a banquet – #cheese    #mountains and mountains of cheese   #I feel like I’m in heaven    #cheese sandwiches
  • Tell my kids I love them – #the greatest group in the world    #world changers    #the purpose of my life
  • Tracy is the best sister ever – #amazing    #gone through so much    #strong and godly
  • Listen to Pastor Art – #greatest pastor in the world    #don’t make me come down there
  • Students don’t forget morning prayer – #7:14   #I will come find you
  • This service had better not last more than an hour – #didn’t you learn anything?
  • Heaven is real – it’s all real – #don’t miss it    #don’t miss it for anything    #help get everybody you can here.

Real Faith for Real Trouble

prison-barsMost Christians have a basic understanding of faith that includes the principle of justification by faith, and that by the grace of God.  A smaller number have learned that faith is a lifestyle and the prescribed way of living for the believer: “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).  It’s possible for a believer in the course of receiving teaching about the lifestyle of faith to come to the erroneous conclusion that if they simply had enough faith, no trouble would ever visit their life.  Unfortunately, the Scripture teaches just the opposite.  Jesus said boldly, “In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  Mark chapter four states emphatically trouble comes because of the Word.  A balanced and accurate rendering of biblical faith must include the understanding that (1) faith attracts trouble into our lives, (2) faith sustains us in that trouble, (3) and faith delivers us from that trouble.  No, you are not a freak or an inferior Christian because you are going through a tough time.

The Bible is filled with stories of faithful servants who experienced trouble not due to a lack of faith, but because they were individuals of great faith demonstrating that faith through consecration to God and faithfulness.  Abel’s faith led to his demise at the hands of his own brother.  Daniel’s faith landed him in the lion’s den.  The three Hebrew boys were tossed into the fiery furnace because of their faith.  Joseph’s faith landed him in the pit.  David’s faith and the success it brought got him into trouble with the spear thrower known as King Saul.  While it’s true that our own behavior has often been the source of our trouble, it is also true that we can get into trouble for simply being faithful to God.

Paul and Silas were thrown into the inner core of prison and chained like violent criminals for bringing deliverance to a fortune-teller and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 16).  Imagine how you would respond if you were apprehended and jailed for doing nothing more than sharing your faith in Jesus Christ (foreign to American Christians but a very present realty around the world).  The amazing reaction and behavior of Paul and Silas in this story illustrate the proper way to handle the trouble that comes from being a person of faith.  When you find yourself in trouble because of your stand of faith, draw from their godly example.

First, make sure you maintain a good attitude in the midst of the situation.  It’s amazing we don’t see Paul and Silas whining, griping, or complaining over their situation.  In America today, Christians get put out if their latte is not made to their liking or if someone snatches their parking place at Wal-Mart.  The attitude is the best indicator of the present health of our faith and spiritual life.  I love the story of the little boy who visited his grandpa one afternoon.  As Grandpa fell asleep on the couch and the little boy thought it would be funny to smear Limburger cheese all over grandpa’s mustache. Later, when grandpa awoke, he couldn’t help but smell the cheese under his nose. Thinking the front room was the source of the smell, he headed into the kitchen to find the smell just as strong there.  Looking for relief from the stench, grandpa headed outside, took a whiff, and exclaimed, “the whole world stinks.”  Ironically, the smell was not coming from the front room, the kitchen, or the world, but from grandpa himself.  Our attitude is just like that – the source of a smelly attitude is never someone else.

Second, make sure you keep your song.  At midnight from deep within the prison walls, Paul and Silas began to pray and sing hymns.  It’s noteworthy that the other prisoners were listening to them because people around us are watching and listening as well to see how we will handle the adversity brought on by our faith.  The powerful praise and worship was followed by a prison shaking earthquake that caused all the prison doors to open.  We have to remember that the doors open after the praise and not before.  Don’t wait for the circumstances to change before you break out into song and praise.  Praise God in the midst of the trouble and watch His deliverance begin to flow.  It’ also noteworthy to mention that the deliverance of others (like the other prisoners) depends on our lifestyle of praise.

Third, regardless of the trouble and the setbacks you are facing, make sure you stay focused on your mission in the midst of the trouble.  Too often believers are oblivious to the needs around them because they are so dialed in to their own trouble.  Paul and Silas, despite their treatment, had the presence of mind to focus on the souls of the jailer and other prisoners.  Instead of killing himself in response to what looked like a jail break, the jailer found Jesus through the ministry of two men sensitive to the Holy Spirit despite the hardship they were experiencing.  How many ministry opportunities pass us by because we are consumed with our trouble, our challenges, and our hardships?  Let’s not teach the enemy he can shut down our ministry simply by stirring up a little trouble in our lives.  Choose to look for chance to bless others right there in the midst of your mess.

Yet Another Lesson From A Six Pound (Seven Pound) Toy Poodle

IMG_0111When appreciated, loved, and properly cared for, dogs pretty much live a charmed life.  Doggie agenda for the day: wake up, stretch legs, go potty, drink a little water, run around the room, eat, sleep, chew toy, go potty, sleep some more, give kisses, cheer for the Cardinals, repeat, etc. Through the years I’ve learned a lot from the tough life of our six pound (um, more like seven pounds these days) blonde toy poodle, and I’ve shared those lessons within this blog (search “lessons from a six pound toy poodle”).

Recently my wife and I were talking about the calm and total trust our small poodle exhibits in her daily routine.  Princess (her AKC registered name, but I have bestowed a litany of other names upon her such as PeePoo, Purty Girl, Isopurty, Jelly Belly, BeeBoo, Fluffy Butt, you get the idea), for example, never has a thought about whether the food bowl will be filled, if she will have water to drink, if someone will be getting up to take her out (that would be me), or if she will get any attention (you have probably already discerned, PeePoo gets little attention around our house).  Her faith and trust level is particularly strong when it comes to scoring dog treats.  Like clockwork, sometime in the middle of the evening Princess will stake a place in the floor in front of me and wait with piercing eyes of longing for her daily fix of mini milk bones. She will wait patiently for a few moments before breaking into a pouty whine to remind me she’s there.  The whine then morphs into a series of short barks to get my attention as she longs to hear those two amazing and powerful words, “doggy treats?” It works every time (and it will work on every single person in the house before the night is over).

Imagine how charmed our lives would be if we would learn to trust the Lord the way Princess trusts and expects us to take care of her.  She simply has no worries about her future in the Heinz household.  She does not sheepishly cower in shame or nonverbally apologize for boldly expecting her needs to be met.  There is no fretting about the future and no pining over the messes (and there have a been a few) of the past.  Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about ANYTHING, but in EVERYTHING by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” If the Lord is watching the sparrow and taking care of the Poo, you can have complete confidence and peace that He will take care of you. 

Resistance Is Not Futile

Borg 1If you’ve been exposed at all to the television or movie versions of the Star Trek productions you have become very familiar with the strange world of the part human, part machine colony of the Borg. Their ultimate goal is in assimilating others to be exactly just like them. The famous declaration of the Borg when challenged is to say, “resistance is futile.” This is exactly how the enemy works against the believer. He knows that if we resist him, he has to flee (James 4:7). Actually resistance is not futile – it’s the key to overcoming the devil every time.

The ultimate goal of the devil, then, is to get us into a position of non-resistance to his influence, his negativity, and his accusations. We all know that the greater one lives inside of us but if we, in the heat of battle, begin to stop resisting, we will be defeated every time. Because we are born of God, we have through faith everything we need to overcome this world because the victory that overcomes this world is our faith (1 John 5:4-5). But the key is to stand in this revelation and truth against the influence of the enemy and the circumstances in our lives that are running contrary to the Word of God. Even though we ARE overcomers, we can be overcome if we falter when it comes to resisting those things that Jesus died to redeem us from.

There are many things that subtly but effectively steer the believer towards non-resistance such as spiritual laziness (the lack of discipline to continue in prayer, worship, and Bible study), weariness (the effect of long protracted battles where one literally gets tired of fighting), and emptiness (we give everything we have in service scraping the bottom of the barrel instead of keeping the barrel full and giving out from the top). The more lazy, weary, or empty we become the less likely we are to stand and resist the enemy. The more non-resistant we become to the activity and agenda of the enemy, the more defeated we become. We have been redeemed from the curse according to Galatians 3:14, but the curse will still prevail and advance in our lives in an atmosphere of non-resistance. 

The reason for this is we are defeated by whatever we yield to in life (give up to, surrender to, relinquish to). According to James 4:7 we are to resist (withstand, strive against, oppose) the devil and his thoughts, but unfortunately, many believers forget about the first part of that verse that commands us first to submit to God. We cannot effectively resist the devil while we are actively resisting God. Make sure you eliminate every single area of non-compliance with God and His Word in your life if you want to see the devil flee. The other critical factor, according to 1 Peter 5:9, is the quality and level of our faith. We are told to resist him (the devil) steadfast in the faith. The quality and level of our faith determines our capacity and readiness to resist and continue resisting. The key to raising both the quality and the level of our faith is always more time in the Word because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word (Romans 10:17).

I love the story of Jehoshaphat in the Bible when he was facing an insurmountable alliance and attack of enemy forces in 2 Chronicles 20. His example shows us how to resist the enemy while under pressure. First, he immediately went to the Lord in prayer. Unfortunately, many believers today try everything else under the sun and only after every single other option has been exhausted without results, they turn to the Lord in prayer. It reminds me of what Winston Churchill said of Americans in light of World War II. He said, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.” Christians are a lot like that today, but prayer should be our FIRST resort not our last resort. Second, he gave his ear to the prophetic word of God. In this case, the Lord raised up a prophet in their midst to declare that the battle was the Lord’s and that they were to stand and in standing (resisting) they would see the victory. We may not all have a specific prophetic word in our situation, but we have something more sure and certain, the Word of God (2 Peter 1:19). Like the people in Jehoshaphat’s day, we need to believe the Word and in doing so we will be victorious. Finally, he released his people to sing and praise God in the midst of the battle. In fact, the singers and praisers were placed at the head of the army without weapons. In the natural this does not seem like a very good strategy for winning a war. In fact, it sounds like a recipe to lose any element of surprise and to precipitate a massacre. But the weapons we fight with are not carnal – they are mighty (2 Corinthians 10:4). Praise, in fact, is a supernatural weapon of our warfare that literally silences the foe and the avenger (Psalm 8:1-2). This actually brought confusion to the enemy’s camp and their ultimate defeat.

The enemy may try to tell you that it is futile to resist him, but according to the Word we know that if we will submit to God and stay strong in faith we will abide in a position of resistance to the enemy and in doing so he will have to flee. If you are feeling lazy, weary, or empty, get busy right now building up your resistance capacity by spending time in God’s Word and presence. Like Jehoshaphat, you too can believe God’s Word, stand, and watch the defeat of the enemy in your life.

Faith for Miracles

It is quite faith building and encouraging to know and understand that there is no heavenly timer on miracles. There is no day that miracles just ceased in the earth because the miraculous power of God is a reflection of His very nature and heart and not just a tool for proving divinity. There is no “day” of miracles, but there is a God of miracles, and He is very much alive and active in the earth today.

Galatians 3:3-5 teaches us that we receive the Spirit and see miracles among us because of faith. Romans 5:2 says plainly that we access the favor of God through faith. Hebrews 11:6 declares that anyone coming to the Lord must believe that He is (that He exists) and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him. Further, it is clear from Mark 6:5 and Matthew 13:58 that the presence of or lack of faith is ultimately the determining factor whether the miraculous power of God is released in our midst or not.

In dealing with the spirit of familiarity, contempt, and offense in his hometown, Jesus did not say that he was lacking supernatural power to get the job done. He did not say that the day of miracles was over or that it simply was not God’s will to do miracles. He did say that the thing stopping up the flow of miraculous power was their lack of faith. Because of this plain Biblical truth, we need to learn to stir up our precious and holy faith if we want to see more of God’s power at work among us. Again, this is not about proposing some formula for miracles, but providing a faith-filled and expectant atmosphere where miracles are more likely to happen. Our job is to charge the air with faith and dispel any doubt, fear, and unbelief from the environment. From the story of the paralytic brought to Jesus for spiritual restoration and physical healing in Mark, I want to share about the kind of faith that receives a miracle.

First, the faith that receives a miracle is a UNIFIED faith. The men who carried the paralytic had to be in one mind and one heart to get the job done. To be unified means to become a single unit. The paralytic together with each of these individuals had to be in agreement about what they were doing and why. Psalm 133 powerfully points out the impact of unity among the people of God. When we are in unity the anointing of God (God on flesh doing what flesh can’t do), fruitfulness, the blessing, and life are the results. So, get into agreement with other believers!

Second, the faith that receives a miracle is a TENACIOUS faith. These men faced many obstacles along the way including the journey to get to the house where Jesus was ministering. When they arrived there was no way to get into the house so, undaunted, the men went up to the roof carrying the paralytic, ripped open the roof and lowered the man into the presence of Jesus. A tenacious faith is a persistent, stubborn and obstinate faith that absolutely refuses to be denied and that no set back or challenge can quench. There will always be obstacles to receiving but we must continue busting through every barrier until we reach destination miracle. So, do not give up no matter what you face!

Finally, the faith that receives a miracle is a VISIBLE faith. James 2:18 indicates that faith should be so real and obvious that it is something shown through corresponding actions. To be visible means that it can be seen, that it is perceptible to the eye, apparent, obvious, and conspicuous. When faith is fully released it is observable. That’s why the Bible says in Mark 2 that Jesus literally saw their faith. This is nothing unique to this story. The Bible is filled with examples where the faith of individuals spilled over into visible action. Blind Bartimaeus, filled with faith, threw is cloak aside, went to Jesus, and his sight was restored (Mark 10:50). The man with the withered hand stretched out his hand and was healed (Luke 6:10). The lepers went to show themselves to the priests and were healed along the way (Luke 17:14). The woman with the issue of blood touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and was made whole (Mark 5:27-18). So, step out boldly and act on your faith!

Remember that our God is great and He does miracles. Remember also that He responds to the confidence, trust, and faith we place in Him. Make up your mind today to walk in a unified, tenacious, and visible faith and expect the Lord to move in your situation. For our God performs miracles and displays His power among the peoples (Psalm 77:14).

The Best of Years

Ministry and prophetic voices all over the land are declaring that 2011 will be both the best and worst of years. Malachi 3:18 explains that there will be a distinction between the righteous and the wicked: “And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those that serve God and those who do not.” What’s exciting for those that have ears to hear and eyes to see is that this is not the promise of a distinction or a manifestation to come some day in the sweet by and by, but the promise that the distinction will be clear, evident, and obvious this year. The good news is that this is an individual choice and decision. We determine whether 2011 will be the best of years of the worst of years for ourselves and for our families.

The word “distinction” means that there will be something plain and evident in the lives of faithful believers that will distinguish, separate, mark off as different, or identity them as distinct from those that choose to move away from the things of God in this season. Part of that distinction will manifest as God’s provision, empowerment, and assistance in every aspect of the believer’s life so that literally every thing is made “all right.” In the midst of all the fear, torment, and uncertainly right now, its’ exciting, encouraging, and faith-building to hear the prophetic voice echoing the Word of God that boldly promises, “…I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” (Psalm 37:25).

The unique aspect about this prophecy for 2011 is that it indicates that the year will be extreme on both the best and worst ends of the continuum. 2011 will be extraordinary and extremely good for those that honor God and just the opposite for those that choose to dishonor Him. This means either an extremely fruitful, successful, and blessed year or an extremely barren, unsuccessful, and cursed year. Biblically, this concept is nothing new. By the Lord’s direction, Moses told the people of God in Deuteronomy 30:19, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life…”

I want to encourage you to focus on three powerful principles in 2011 or three ways that you will be choosing to have the best of years. The key is to absolutely INSIST on keeping these principles because the believers that insist on doing so (not might or if I get around to it), but insist on doing so will have the best possible year. Those that INSIST on ignoring these concepts or principles will find that 2011 will be the worst possible year.

First, no matter what you see, hear, or feel, INSIST on staying in faith this year. The key to staying in faith is keeping the Word of God going in your eyes, ears, and heart, and keeping that same Word coming out of your mouth in abundance. Remember that we cannot keep the contents of our hearts from coming out for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). We will all see and hear things this year that will try to pull us off of the Word of God and into distraction, doubt, fear, or unbelief. Make up your mind that you are going to stay focused on the Word of God regardless of what you see and hear going on all around you.

Second, INSIST on keeping the commandment to love no matter how you feel or how you perceive you are being treated. One of the devil’s choice weapons is to get God’s people, mad, upset, and offended with something or someone. The moment we come out of love this year we will disqualify ourselves from the best of years and slip into the worst of years. This means that the devil is going to work extra hard to get you put out, bitter, and offended. Make up your mind to stay in love and to forgive quickly and completely from the heart. I don’t care what has happened. I don’t care what has been said to you or about you. Nothing is worth you losing the blessing this year. Nothing is worth you losing the distinction that is promised to the covenant child of God this year! If you’ve been going down the road of bitterness, hard feelings, and offense, come to your senses now, stop, and turn around while the year is still young.

Finally, no matter what happens, INSIST on keeping and honoring the Word of God in every situation of life. To “honor” means to “give the greatest weight to” in life. It means that there is no voice more influential in your life than the Lord and His Word and this influence is proven by quick and lasting obedience to the principles of the Word of God. If there is a command to keep, a behavior to stop, or a correction to make you do so with bells on. 2011 is especially not the year to be ignorant of the Word, to hesitate when He tells you to act, or to continue obstinately down a direction or path when He has clearly redirected you. This is a year to know the Word and do the Word faithfully and consistently.

Refuse to Settle

Some people have the mistaken idea that faith is simply a life of pretend or pretense, but as Jerry Savelle used to say, “Faith does not pretend…faith attacks.” Faith is not tapping your slippers, closing your eyes, and pretending you are not facing a major challenge, setback, or disappointment. Faith does not deny the existence of financial failure, a physical sickness, or a troubled marriage. Faith acknowledges the existence of the issue but then proceeds to attack it with the Word of God and deny that obstinate situation permission to remain. The problem is that the enemy is very good at convincing us to accept limits, boundaries, and fences as unchangeable reality. Everything inside of us as believers should cry out, “don’t fence me in!”

We need to understand that the enemy would love for all of us to live far below God’s best, but I want to encourage you to not settle for less than what God’s Word says you have can have spiritually, relationally, physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. Matthew 11:12 teaches us that the kingdom of God suffers violence and the violent take it by force. Many assume this refers to an assault by the world or Satan on the kingdom of God. In reality it refers to the aggressive faith-filled stance of the believer to press in to the kingdom of God and everything it offers the believer.

One of the primary reasons Christians fail to live an extraordinary life in God – one that is beyond the usual, extraordinary, noteworthy, remarkable, uncommon, rare, phenomenal, and special – is that they are all too willing to settle. Any voice that compels you to settle for less is of the devil. In today’s blog I want to leave you with some keys that will empower you to resist the devil and and embolden you to refuse to settle for less than God’s best in your life:

First, James 4:7 teaches us what to do with the devil and his suggestions: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” One of the devil’s most effective tricks on the body of Christ is to get us in a position of what I call “non-resistance” to his wiles, schemes, lies, and agenda. If we resist rather than yield, he will have no choice but to flee from us every time.

Second, remember that your past does not equal your future. Let go of past mistakes so that you can reach for what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13-14). It’s hard to press forward for your future when you eyes are glued on the road behind you.

Third, open your heart and life for others to correct you when necessary because open rebuke is better than secret love. A word from a friend that really cares about us in due season can often mean the difference between success and failure. It takes a bold believer to speak into our lives and it takes a humble but sharp believer to listen to and receive that counsel.

Fourth, whatever you do, stay out of the pity party because when you are in pity you are not in faith. When you step in to pity, you step into a pit – a demonic trap of the enemy to hold you back. If we TRULY believe that God’s blessing is on our lives and operating to empower us to succeed and prosper, we would never fall into the trap of the pity party.

Fifth, find out what God’s Word says about your situation. Memorize it, study it, and confess that Word often. Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Revelation of God and His Word, on the other hand, bring us to a place of victory and success.

Sixth, accept the call, like Abraham, to be a blessing to others every day. It’s great to confess that the blessing is on you, but we all need to take the revelation of the blessing to the next level and make up our minds to not just possess the blessing, but to be a blessing – to be the kind of believer that empowers others to prosper and succeed.

Seventh, dream the biggest dream of your life. God’s Word says, “God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams” (Ephesians 3:20, MES). The lack of dreams and small dreaming is what ultimately holds the believer back (not the will or the willingness of our Lord). If you can grasp the dream, comprehend the dream, conceive the dream in your heart, you can see that dream come to pass. Dreams by their very nature take us beyond where we have been before – they are natural boundary breakers and fence crashers.

Finally, trust in the favor of God – that the favor of God is on your life in abundance. The favor of God is kind regard, friendly disposition, support, defense, vindication, promotion, justification, benevolence, acts of grace and good will, advantage, partiality, preferential treatment, and convenience afforded for our success. Favor is when people say, “no,” and circumstances say, “no,” but God says, “yes” (Jerry Savelle). Any believer can tap into the favor of God through faith (Romans 5:2). Favor is vital in hard times because it takes the boundaries and limitations off of our lives and enables us to go from ordinary to extraordinary.

Faith Flirts

Lt. Gen. James H. Doolittle

Whenever people hear the message of faith for the first time their hearts are usually encouraged and excited about the possibilities obtainable through God’s Word. As we listen to the uncompromised Word of God going forth we catch a glimpse of how life could be if we would begin to use the force of faith like a tool rather than as just a generic term to describe religion in general. The Scriptures teach that “all things are possible to him that believes” (Mark 9:23). Faith is the divine connection between where we are in life and where we could be. Faith is how we access the favor of God (Romans 5:2), the prescribed way for believers to live (Romans 1:17), and how we ultimately please God (Hebrews 11:6).

But when the reality of the lifestyle of faith sets in – that it takes more than faith to get the job done – that it requires time, love, patience, and doesn’t usually produce immediately or over night, people often lose their enthusiasm. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4). It is the key to the victorious life in God. I often liken the lifestyle of faith to a boxing ring. Well trained in faith we step into the ring to do battle. Paul called it fighting “the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). If we won’t get into the ring, or fight, or stay in the ring, we can never obtain the victory. Many people begin with good intentions but when they see the reality of faith they immediately try to climb out of the ring and back away from the message or the word of faith.

People who begin but do not hang in there on their walk of faith are what I call “faith flirts” – they flirt with the notion and concept of being a faith person but they do not persevere in their faith and are not invested over the long haul. If we can leave the lifestyle of faith then it was never a personal revelation to us. To “flirt” means to play triflingly and superficially without serious intentions as with a toy. It means to talk sweet nonsense, to touch a thing in passing, or to deal lightly, casually, or flippantly with a thing. The faith flirt plays with faith but never really decides to actually live consistently and enduringly by faith.

The faith flirts are relatively easy to spot. First, they are normally unstable and unsettled. Because they are not really walking in faith they do not possess the corresponding peace and rest that always accompanies the faith person. Second, they value spiritual experience over the Word. In fact, when a faith flirt hears about someone seeing Jesus, they invariable want to know what he looks like. The genuine faith person wants to know what he said. Experience, for the faith flirt, becomes more binding and authoritative than the written Word of God. Third, faith flirts are easily defeated and quick to give up. Where the faith person has formed a habit of fighting and winning, the faith flirt has developed the habit of tucking tail and running. Fourth they don’t ever seem to get results because they never persevere long enough to see the manifestation or the end of their faith. Finally, they are consistently ruled by their emotions. The faith person has a soul that is anchored in the truth of the Word of God, the highest reality in the universe. The faith flirt is anchored to the emotions and when the emotions change, they change. They live terribly inconsistent and flaky lives because they have no foundation of faith and can never have a foundation until they give more credibility to the Word than to their feelings.

I want to encourage you today to evaluate your walk and look for evidences of the faith flirt. If you are unstable, experience based, quick to quit, lacking results, or emotion ruled, acknowledge that, repent of it, and make up your mind to stop flirting with faith but take the faith plunge once and for all. You can quickly move from faith flirt to faithful by establishing your foundation in the Word of God. Instead of playing with the Word and faith, get serious about getting the Word in your eyes, in your ears, and down into your heart. The more diligent you are the stronger you will become.

In the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, President Roosevelt was looking for a way to respond decisively to the cowardly action of the Japanese Imperial Navy. A bold, unprecedented plan was presented to send sixteen medium range Army B-25 bombers off the aircraft carrier USS Hornet and bomb Tokyo and four other cities. Led by Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, the handpicked squadron headed out to sea and prepared to strike at the very heart of Japan. Before embarking on this dangerous mission, Doolittle told his airmen, “victory belongs to those that believe in it the most…that believe in it the longest… and we’re going to believe.” Doolittle’s Raiders successfully bombed Japan before running out of fuel and losing the bombers one by one trying to reach the mainline of China.

These brave army pilots knew the challenges, the risks, and the importance of the mission. They volunteered and accepted their role and likely fate. After leaving that flight deck early because a Japanese fishing boat spotted the American flotilla, they knew there was no going back and most likely not enough fuel to get to China after the bombing run. Faith people are the same way. They head out into the spirit realm with no plans for failure and no plans for turning back, and they execute until they achieve the objective. That is the essence and difference between the faith flirt and the faith person. Make a quality decision today, one from which there is no turning back, to live your life on the Word and to stay on that Word with a bulldog determination that says, “I cannot be defeated and I will not quit.”


“But understand this, that in the last days will come (set in) perilous times of great distress and trouble [hard to deal with and hard to bear] (2 Timothy 3:1, AMP). “But don’t let it faze you. Stick with what you learned and believed…There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation” (2 Timothy 3:14, MES).

It’s no secret that challenging times are upon us socially, politically, economically, and spiritually. During seasons like these it’s tempting to try to discover some new secret for getting through tough times. But the Apostle Paul warned his spiritual son Timothy that the key to overcoming the distress that would come in the last days is what he had already received from the Lord. He told him to continue in the things that he had learned. That was good advice then and it’s good advice now.

Jesus shared this powerful and life changing truth with some unsuspecting Jews (John 8). As a result of his preaching and teaching, the Bible says that “many put their faith in him” (v. 30). But Jesus made it clear very quickly that believing was not enough to experience the freedom that is available in the Lord. He taught them that they needed to go beyond belief to actually holding to or continuing in his teachings. This would be the key to being a disciple and the disciple is the one given revelation of the Word and that revelation is the key to our freedom. “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (v. 32). They quite naturally bristled at the assertion that descendants of Abraham were ever in bondage to anyone (even though one could probably hear the Roman occupation forces not too far away). Jesus told them that sin made them slaves but, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (v. 36). Jesus was and is offering the opportunity for those that believe, continue in the Word, walk as a disciple, receive revelation and act on it to be just as free as he is free!

The key, therefore, to not being fazed in this tumultuous day is to continue in the things we have learned. 2 Timothy 3:1 from the Message says, “But don’t let it faze you. Stick with what you learned and believed.” Just like the world, many believers will be unnecessarily fazed meaning “to cause to be disturbed or disconcerted,” not because the times are impossible to bear, but because they allow the circumstances and challenges to push them off the valuable Word they have learned, known, and walked in before the storm came. 2 Timothy 3:1 from the Amplified says that the times are “hard to deal with and hard to bear” but not impossible to deal with or bear.

In the midst of the hard times we can choose to be fazed or we can choose to continue in the things we have learned and that which has brought us this far. Jerry Savelle, one of the most balanced and clearest communicators of the lifestyle of faith I know, shared several principles for continuing unfazed in the midst of tough times. I hope they encourage your heart today.

  1. Stay focused on what God says. During challenging times its easy to start paying more attention to the problem and the many voices of compromise. The difference between success and failure at a time like this is what you pay attention to the most. This is a time to zero in on the Word of God like never before.
  2. Stay in faith. We need to continue actively applying our faith to the situation. Often and sometimes with little notice, we tend to back off from an active and aggressive stand on the Word as it pertains to our situation. We become passive believers and kind of just sit back to see what happens. Keep your faith fresh and your believing active by expecting God’s promise to manifest today.
  3. Stay sensitive to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is willing to guide us even in the small details of our lives if we will listen. During tough times it becomes even more important that we are not pushed around by our emotions are pushed off the Word of God because of fear, disappointment, or frustration, but directed by the calming voice of the Spirit of God.
  4. Stay aggressive in your sowing. We need to remember that the blessing is on the tither and the key to our harvest in our life is our giving. One of the first things to go when we are under the gun emotionally or financially is our giving, but we need to remember that when we stop giving we cut ourselves off from God’s supernatural power (Malachi 3) at a time when we need that power the most.
  5. Stay consistent in your confession. There’s just something in all of us that compels us to just want to tell others how bad  things are going. We need to keep our mouths on the Word of God especially in adversity. We do well for a while and then another wave of setbacks or hardship comes our way and we stop talking the Word and start speaking the problem. Consistency is the key to victory in every spiritual battle. Make up your mind that you are going to speak the Word over your situation no matter what you feel, see, or hear.

Instrument Flying

All pilots understand the difference between visual flight rules (VFR) and instrument flight rules (IFR). Any licensed pilot can fly when conditions are consistent with good visibility but only IFR certified pilots can fly without visibility by looking at the instrument panel (or the heads up display of a few fortunate airlines and military aircraft) to monitor vital information like the pitch, altitude, and air speed of the aircraft. VRF certified pilots are not even allowed to fly through cloud cover but the pilot qualified for instrument flying is cleared to fly in all sorts of weather conditions, but only if that pilot is qualified in that specific aircraft for low visibility flying or to fly by instruments.

This was precisely the case when the thirty year veteran captain of Flybe flight 1431 turned his plane around and headed back to Cardiff International Airport after announcing to his befuddled passengers that he was not qualified to land the plane in the fog by instruments in Paris. His employer stood behind the pilot’s decision saying, “He has relatively recently transferred his type-rating from a Bombardier Q300 to a Bombardier Q400. He has not yet completed the requisite low-visibility training to complete a landing in conditions such as the dense fog experienced in Paris Charles de Gaulle. The captain therefore quite correctly turned the aircraft around and returned to Cardiff, a decision which the company stands by 100 per cent.” While inconvenient for the passengers, the pilot saved himself certain prosecution and possibly the lives of the passengers by honoring the rules.

Sometimes life is the same way. It’s easy when we can see everything and fly by sight. But quite often, we do not have our bearings because fog or stormy weather has moved in to obscure our perception and our vision. It seems those clouds roll in at the worst possible time just like flight 1431. The Scripture also speaks of a skill to fly by instruments rather than visual observation. In fact, we are told that we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). The lifestyle of faith is the prescribed way to fly or live out our lives. Like pilots pursuing instrument flying certification, the believer too enters training to develop the ability to discern by faith what is not discernible to the natural senses.

Let me encourage you to pick up your flight manual, the Bible, today and spend some valuable time learning how to interpret your situation through the eyes of faith. The Word of God is our “heads up display” providing all the vital information we need to navigate us safely to the destiny the Lord has for our lives. Just like the Flybe pilot, the foggy, cloudy, stormy condition is not the time to find out you don’t have the rating (or faith) you need to get the job done.

Put Your Gloves On

Some believers have the idea that the teachers of the lifestyle of faith (prescribed four times in Scripture – Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38) are pushing some kind of “easy believism” whereby our own personal genie in a bottle rises up to make our every whim come true. They often use derogatory terms to describe the very biblical connection between the faith in the heart and the confession of our mouth (Romans 10:9-10; Proverbs 29:18) like “name it and claim it” or “blab it and grab it.” True, there are abuses and excesses with every revelation in the Word of God but that does not change the fundamental truth of the principle. In demonizing a very biblical truth, the self-appointed watch dogs of the Church (who usually have never really listened to the comprehensive teaching of the principles of faith) have succeeded only in preventing some much needed understanding from getting to those that need to understand faith the most.

Nonetheless, it is important to remember that faith is not a magic wand or silver bullet for catering to the flesh. Faith is actually described in Scripture as a fight by the Apostle Paul. In fact we derive our word “agony” from the Greek word agonizomai which is the basis for the translation of the phrase, “the fight of faith.” Paul told Timothy that he had “fought the good fight,” and challenged him to do the same. The lifestyle of faith is described best as the platform for spiritual conflict surrounding the ministry of the gospel and the receiving of the promises of God. In other words, we do not live in some kind of spiritual vacuum where everything we see in Scripture just comes automatically to us without a fight or a struggle.

I liken the lifestyle of faith to a boxing match. Faith is what allows us to enter into the ring (we are not even in the ring until we are in faith). We aren’t guaranteed the victory just because we step into the ring to fight. We are promised that with our faith we can persevere until the victory is produced, for “this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith (1 John 5:4). Some folks forfeit important life matches because they never enter into the ring of faith. Others get weary and do not stay in the ring long so they lose. Others climb into the ring and take punch after punch but forget to keep their shield of faith up and punch back with the sword of the Spirit (the confessed Word of God). Still others get “cut” like a boxer and bleeding decide to throw in the proverbial white towel.

I want to encourage you to put your faith gloves on, climb into the ring, persevere, keep your guard up, punch back with the words of your mouth, and refuse to throw in the towel. It’s impossible to defeat a faith-filled believer who just refuses to quit. I am coming along side of you in today’s blog like the boxing trainer in your corner with a faith checklist of fundamentals to help you go the distance and win the match.

1.  Stand your ground realizing that Satan is the source of your opposition. We know that we do not war against flesh and blood but against spiritual powers in high places. Remember that after you have done everything to stand, continue to stand (Ephesians 6).

2.  Be sure you have some Scripture that covers your situation. If you can’t specifically point to the Word on something you say you are believing God for, you’ re not really in faith. Find the place where it is written about your situation and make those Scriptures the basis of your believing.

3.  Make sure you are not living in (practicing) sin because sin attacks your confidence. One man of God said, “sin makes cowards of men.” You can’t be walking around in doubt, condemnation, and insecurity when someone in the ring is literally trying to take your head off. If you are in sin you are not in faith.

4.  Be sure no doubt or unbelief is permitted in your life and heart. Doubt works to lower your guard and allow the enemy in to discourage you from standing and believing God. Beware and watch out for the “second thought” or the word that comes from the enemy (through human voices often) telling you that you’re going to lose, you can’t make it, you’re going down for the count. Once you have the Word on the subject be ruthless when a second thought comes to rob you of your faith.

5.  Keep a strong desire for the thing you are asking for because the more attention you give that desire, the greater that desire will be. In a ten round heavyweight boxing match, endurance and staying power become central to any victory. You will increase your ability to stay in the fight if that desire stays strong within your heart.

6.  Ask God in faith without wavering rather than being, as James says, a man of two minds going back and forth on the issue (James 1), One moment he believes God and the next minute he throws down his faith. In a faith battle you’ll get both your minds knocked into the next county if you don’t get into agreement with yourself about what you believe. James is clear that we will not receive anything from the Lord if we are double-minded.

7.  Count it done and resist any symptom, circumstance, or situation that contradicts God’s Word and what you are believing. One meaning of the concept of “binding and loosing” in Matthew 18 is “to veto.” This means we refuse to permit, allow, let, or suffer something to happen. It should encourage you to know that the Lord himself issued and granted this authority to his disciples. Get your veto stamp out whenever the enemy tries to pull a fast one on you by trying to convince you that the Word will not work in your situation. Veto that sin, sickness, lack, depression, discouragement, hopelessness and believe the Word to come to pass in your life.

8.  Give glory to God even before the manifestation of the victory. If you want to really freak the devil out, start thanking and praising God right in the middle of the faith ring long before you’ve thrown the knockout punch. You’ll throw him off his groove because by design he is after your words, your praise, and your thanksgiving to God. Anyone can praise God when the opponent is lying on the mat out cold in defeat. The truth is we speed our victory when we praise the Lord before we see the victory.

9.  Act as though you have already received what you believed. Receiving the promise would no doubt change your attitude, your demeanor, your outlook, your behavior, and joy would be bubbling up constantly. That’s what happens when you truly believe the Word. Confuse the enemy (and the watchdogs) by living and acting now like you have already received the promise of God.

We can count on the Word to bring us the victory but like Paul we have to scrap and fight the good fight of faith. This is not the time to hang up your gloves. Climb into the ring, listen to your trainer, keep your guard up, refuse to quit, and punch away until your enemy is out cold at your feet (which is exactly where Jesus wants him to be).


“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance” (Psalm 33:12, NIV)

Today marks the historic signing of the landmark healthcare bill touted by some as the salvation of the nation and regarded by others as the final decent in to Armageddon. I don’t like the bill (and I’ll tell you why later), but I don’t think that any one piece of legislation is as good or bad as the voices in our land are portraying it. What concerns me more is the fear permeating every aspect of this process by everyone, every party, every media voice, and many of our citizens. We can take action, forge legislation, and make changes without throwing out common sense and faith and succumbing to fear. The fear surrounding this debate has given the enemy an opportunity to deceive, divide, and denigrate our people and our nation and this is why this healthcare initiative deserves the title, Mediscare, because it is proposed and opposed out of fear and fear always de-evolves into rancor, irrationality, and personal attacks by and upon all sides of the debate.

Right up front I will plainly state that I do not like the legislation for a litany of reasons. First, I don’t appreciate the manner in which the legislation was drafted (despite Obama’s promise repeatedly to create and draft this sweeping legislation with everyone’s input and televised – not the token roadshow broadcast recently). Second, this concept has been tried in earnest in Massachusetts and failed miserably (that effort proposed by a Republican) and in part in Tennessee with the same results. Third, our European friends that have already wandered down this path with one voice have warned us not to follow them. Fourth, the American people overwhelmingly have said (important in a democratic society) that they do not want this approach but that they want the government to start all over working together to forge substantive change in a bipartisan way. Fifth, when you have to basically bribe senators and congressmen in smoky back rooms out of the public eye and scrutiny to secure their vote it does not instill confidence in the product or the process. Sixth, this bill relegates control of over one-sixth of our economy to a federal bureaucracy that has proven its amazing management skills with such government entities as the post office, Amtrak, the Veteran’s Administration, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (need I say more). Seventh, as every nation that has adopted this direction in healthcare can tell you, healthcare quality and availability go down and the costs skyrocket. Eighth, our nation simply cannot afford a one trillion makeover when we already owe fourteen trillion in debt. The U.S. government apparently cannot seem to understand what every working family knows. If you can’t make the payments on your fifteen hundred square foot house, you don’t fix the problem by buying a ten thousand square foot house. If you can’t make the payment and insurance premiums on your clunker you don’t go out and buy a BMW. Ninth (wow), to mandate that individuals must purchase the privately sold product of healthcare insurance or face an IRS imposed, controlled, and collected fine (they call it a tax) is blatantly unconstitutional (and they know but don’t seem to care). Finally, I can’t stomach the expanded funding of abortion on demand with my tax dollars (you should know that no executive order trumps legislation). The right to life is the right that supersedes all other rights and should be protected at all costs and it is unconscionable to expect that pro-life believers should have to not only accept abortion, but fund it.

Despite these reservations, there is something troubling me more than the bill itself – the fear that has invaded every aspect of this debate and process. The debate should center around the merits (or lack thereof) of the legislation and not party affiliation, political philosophy or race. It grieves me and I know it hurts the heart of God for someone to oppose something on the basis of affiliation, philosophy or race. It is just as grievous to support something for the same reasons alone. But fear is like that. I mean when fear shows up sanity and critical thinking disappear and people default to what makes them feel secure (even if it is morally repugnant and biblically in error). It is racist to oppose legislation on the basis of the race, creed, or color of those that either initiate the proposal or benefit by the proposal but it is equally racist to say that because of a person’s race their views or proposals should not be criticized as if to say that because of their race their ideas will not survive scrutiny (that significantly devalues that individual).

I don’t lend my voice to politics or political parties (although I will vote and express my views on issues in light of the Word). My voice and allegiance are at the disposal of the Lord Jesus Christ and with that in mind I want to exhort people of faith from all parties, philosophies, and races (the Bible truly only teaches one race – the human race, but for understanding only do I use this term) to get back into faith concerning this initiative and any other initiative proposed by our government. Fear opens the door to all sorts of evil and believers have no business hooking back up to the enemy just because they have strong opinions on a civil matter. Our hope is the Lord, his Word, and his Kingdom. If we win or lose the argument or succeed or fail to pass the legislation we want, let’s remember that we are citizens of heaven first and we should never compromise our royal decorum as kings and priests together with him to feel, speak, and act like the world regardless of the importance of the issue. No debate is worth losing our witness and way as believers and no issue is worth losing the blessing on our lives, families, and churches.

So, have and express your opinion (I’ve expressed mine and I will vote in November accordingly because I too am a citizen of this nation), but if you have slipped into fear over this as evidenced by the venom in your heart or mouth for any party, philosophy, or background, knock it off, repent, and be the Christian you need to be in this messed up and confused world we live in. The fact is no political party truly represents the interests of the Kingdom of God so we are left with the task of evaluating political efforts and decisions in the light of the Word and not their platforms, websites, or press releases. Join me in believing God for legislation that is the product of faith rather than born out of fear or opposed out of fear because, “everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23, NIV).

Faith Is Not Enough

“…he who endures until the end shall be saved” (Matthew 10:22, KJV). “We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first” (Hebrews 3:14, NIV).

Any sound teaching about faith must also include the reality that faith is not enough. What?!? I didn’t stutter. In fact, often when believers feel like their faith has failed in something they were believing God for it wasn’t their faith at all. The culprit was a lack of patience or perseverance. The person who endures to the end, perseveres, practices endurance, won’t quit or give up, who goes all the way shall be saved or tap into God’s various dimensions of soundness.

Patience is word-based confidence that God will come through if we do not faint or give up. It is steadfastness under provocation to quit or give up. Patience means to be consistently constant while we rest in faith for the “end of our faith” (the realization of what we are believing). If we are not excited, expectant, and at rest in our hearts, we have not added patience to our faith and most likely we will fail to see the manifestation.

Galatians 6:9 exhorts us to “not be weary in well doing, for we shall reap if we faint not.” If we are truly in faith we will be tempted to get weary. Weariness in the fight of faith does not make you a freak or a second class faith person. Due season is always later than our flesh wants it to be. Faith will get results if we don’t quit and the key to not quitting is developing the force of patience to support our faith. Most people do well for a while believing God but then they get tired, weary, frustrated, confused and then they quit. We need to realize that if we believe strongly for a few months and then quit we will get the same results as if we did not believe God at all. When our patience runs out, our faith runs out.

Receiving from God requires believing God and his Word but it also requires that we add patience to our faith. The Scripture teaches that we receive the promises through faith and patience (Hebrews 6:12). The force of patience is standard equipment that is required for the believer to receive by faith. Patience is an anointing or force of the born again spirit that brings that stability to our faith during a period of faith-filled waiting. The passenger jet is equipped with a horizontal tail stabilizer that keeps the plane flying straight and prevents the plane from pitching up or down (that’s the job of the elevator found on the back of the stabilizer assembly). Patience can be described as a force of the spirit that stabilizes our faith while we are waiting for the manifestation. Without our stabilizer we’ll never get to our ultimate destination.

The Scripture warns us not to throw down our confidence but to persevere  so that we can receive the promise (Hebrews 10:35-39). The key to not shrinking back on our faith is patience. Many times the believer will allow the passing of time beyond some artificial faith deadline (that God did not give you) to discourage them from continuing to press in and believe God. When the hour of our expectation passes we need to remember that the Word did not suddenly change. Heaven and earth will pass away but his Word will not pass away (Matthew 24:35). In fact, the key to maintaining  our faith during challenging and tough times is to fix our eyes on Jesus (and Jesus and the Word are one), the author and finisher of our faith, and not on the clock, the challenges, the problems, or the circumstances (Hebrews 12:1-3). As we focus our attention on the Word like a laser beam we become oblivious to the passing of time and more conscious of the reality of God and his promises to our hearts. Remember that there is a cloud of witnesses pulling for you and they have already proven that if we will add patience to our faith we will receive the promises.

A Horse Named TV Yankee

Without question the horse is one of God’s most majestic creations. In fact, for centuries the horse has been associated with royalty, power, and influence. It’s not hard to understand the multi-cultural affection for the horse if you’ve ever watched this amazing animal trot down the track in a race. It’s no wonder that the Scripture depicts our Lord and Savior returning triumphantly on horseback. While I obviously do not endorse gambling or wagering on the horses, I have to admit that as a baby Christian I learned a powerful lesson from doing so.

For years as a youngster growing up in Southern Illinois I wouldn’t miss the festivities of the annual DuQuoin State Fair and especially the Standardbred trotting classic, the Hambletonian stakes, held at this venue until 1980. When the stakes moved to the Meadowlands, the State of Illinois promoted a new cup known as the World Trotting Derby in DuQuoin. Facing budget cuts, the future of the World Trotting Derby is now in question.

Nonetheless, I had the privilege of watching hundreds of amazing animals through the years and the blessing of receiving a personal revelation through one horse in particular, Hanover Farms’ TV Yankee. TV Yankee (see a file picture here) set a world record in Europe and had all the promise to win the 1983 World Trotting Derby. I was so convinced that this horse would win it all that I put my enormous $2 bet down on TV Yankee to win. Now in the World Trotting Derby a horse had to win two races to take the stakes so I wasn’t too concerned when TV Yankee placed dismally in the middle of the field during his first race. Undaunted, I bet again on TV Yankee to win in his second race. Unfortunately he finished almost dead last. Dismayed but with great faith in this four-legged wonder I headed back to the betting booth to give TV Yankee another try believing that although he was racing in a third race with two winners vying to secure the championship with their second win, he would somehow, some way pull this thing out. By now I had drug my Dad into my fervor and, um, racing ignorance. I placed my third $2 bet and he placed his $20 bet. A few moments later it was post time. I hadn’t even returned to the track when I looked up on the board to see that TV Yankee had scratched (and you don’t get your money back when they scratch after post time).

I’ll never forget what happened next. Within a span of a couple of minutes I heard from my earthly Father and my Heavenly Father. My Dad just shook his head and said playfully, “you big dummy.” My Heavenly Father said something to my heart at that moment that I will never forget and something that has had a great impact on my life. As soon as I saw that TV Yankee had scratched He said, “you have more faith in that horse than you do me.” Ouch. I realized at that very moment I had placed my trust in a horse based on a racing program for the World Trotting Derby but somehow was doubting God ‘s ability and power expressed in our “program for life,” the Bible.

I want to encourage you today to learn to trust the Lord, that is to put your full weight and confidence in his character and in his Word. It’s funny as I remember TV Yankee and my confidence in him that at the same time I was doubting God’s ability to lead my life and provide as I began to discern the first indications that he was calling me into the ministry. How is it that I could have more trust in a horse from the East coast I knew nothing about than the God who created me and saved me? Well, anyway, thanks to TV Yankee and an afternoon at the track, I’ve learned to bet on the Lord Jesus Christ in every area of my life and I want you to know that you can count on him too.

Faith Like a Pigeon

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:31-34, NIV).

A friend of mine and this ministry approached me Sunday to say that he wanted to partner with the television outreach of the church. The following day he said he had an interesting vision in his mind that he wanted to share with me. He saw people sitting on a park bench tossing bread crumbs to the pigeons below. At first he thought he was nuts, but given the way his mind works (his words), he asked the Lord what this was all about. The Lord showed him that the people on the park bench are believers tossing financial seed with little thought and direction on the ground while the pigeons, representing ministers and ministries, try frantically to compete for and collect the meager offerings on the ground. His encouraging word for me was that we would not be like those manic little pigeons trying to carve out their portion but that we would be abundantly supplied for in this ministry journey and endeavor.

These are tough times for people in general, but God is not surprised and his Word is not invalid or less powerful or true just because the world and its system of trying to meet its needs without God has fallen on hard times. On the contrary, the wisdom of walking with God at a time like this is becoming more and more apparent. The believer has a source that the world knows nothing about. We tap into that source through our relationship with Jesus Christ, through the sowing of our own financial seed, and through faith in God and his Word to supply for his people. Paul said to the loving and giving church at Philippi, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

The life of faith is characterized by rest rather than by scrambling frantically for God’s answer or provision in our lives. If we are filled with anxiety, fretting, and worry over the situation or challenges we face we are not in faith. Remember the lesson Jesus taught. He provides for every bird every day and they do not sow or reap and have no means of storage (Luke 12:24). Somehow they just know there will be supply enough when it is needed and that by the direct hand of a loving Heavenly Father. The way we enter into the rest of God and receive during challenging times is to believe (Hebrews 4:3) rather than pecking around with the faith of a pigeon.

Faith for Favor

“This is what the Lord says: In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, Come out, and those in darkness, Be free!” (Isaiah 49:8-9, NIV).

Favor can be defined as excessive kindness and gifts in our lives that we did not earn and we did not deserve. That’s exactly how God treats his children. Grace by its very nature is undeserved and unearned favor. And favor is the tangible release of God’s ability, influence, and provision in our lives in a variety of ways such as supernatural increase and promotion, restoration of stolen things, honor in the midst of adversaries, increases assets, great victories in the midst of great challenges, recognition when you’re least likely to get it, prominence and preferential treatment, petitions granted even by ungodly civil authority, policies reversed to your advantage, battles won that you did not even fight.

Luke 4:19 from the Amplified declares that we are in the acceptable year of the Lord “the day when salvation and free favors of God profusely abound.” Think about that. We are not in the day of vengeance (although this world is speeding quickly toward that day) but in the day of favor. When you understand this you begin to see that this is not “God is mad at you time” but it’s “God favors you time!”

I want to share with you a few simple principles for tapping into or walking in the favor of God:

  1. Acknowledge the favor is real. If you look around you will see many signs of the favor of God on your life right now. It honors God when you stop, recognize, and thank him for his goodness. It can be as amazing as the birth of your child or as simple as a decent parking place at Wal-Mart on a cold, rainy day. Learn to say when God does something in your life, “That was the favor of God!” Remember there’s something on you and it’s the favor and blessing of God.
  2. Believe for the favor. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). As we spend time in the promises of God regarding the favor of God our faith and confidence for that favor will grow. Romans 5:2 makes it clear that we access the favor of God with faith so know that you are favored of God and start expecting the favor to show up in all areas of life (Psalm 69:13; Psalm 84:11; Psalm 90:17; Psalm 102:13; Psalm 106:4-5; 1 Samuel 2:26; Luke 1:25; 2 Corinthians 1:11; for starters).
  3. Confess the favor. I’ve noticed that the people who confess they are favored of God see a lot of God’s favor manifest in their lives. Conversely, people who go around bad mouthing their lives see less favor manifesting in their lives. We know that confession brings possession in general (that’s how we originally got saved – Romans 10:9-10) but I want to encourage you to deliberately confess the favor of God over your life throughout the day. Boldly declare that you are blessed and highly favored of God and as 2 Corinthians 6:2 indicates, NOW is the time of God’s favor.
  4. Don’t be ashamed of the favor. There is a real attempt of the enemy these days to try to make the believer feel ashamed of the blessing and the favor of God. I remember a leather coat I purchased for Kelli. It was a beautiful hand-tooled full length coat that I had saved for and purchased to bless her. As a young minister’s wife she was very concerned with what people would think or say. Consequently, I returned the coat. Does she still feel the same way? Try her! When the Lord blessed her with her Mazda Tribute she purchased with cash I remember the look on her face (all smiles), her petting the steering wheel (I kid you not), and the words that came out of her mouth (thank you Father). Romans 1:16 says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation to them that believe.” Don’t go around drawing attention to yourself but don’t be ashamed of the favor of God in your life either. The part of your salvation or redemption you are ashamed of is the part that you cannot receive.

There truly is something on you and it’s the blessing and the favor of God!

Flourishing Faith

“We ought to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one has for each other is increasing” (2 Thessalonians 1:3, NIV).

The King James Version of the above verse says, “your faith grows exceedingly” and the New Living Translation renders that same verse, “your faith is flourishing.” Despite the fact every believer is given the metron or “measure of faith” at the new birth, many believers have never learned to grow their faith where it is exceeding or flourishing. A flourishing faith is one that is growing vigorously, thriving, and prosperous. We are to take the measure of faith given to us (Romans 12:3) and make it grow just like a muscle. If we don’t use our faith it will atrophy because faith unused diminishes

The Scripture indicates six distinct levels of faith. Our elevation to higher levels of faith produces greater stability and maturity, and enlarges our capacity to receive from God. But understand up front that it is the use of the faith we have that impacts our immediate situation (Luke 17:5-6). Learn to walk diligently in the level of faith you are currently at while positioning yourself to continue flourishing in and growing your faith. I want to encourage you to evaluate where your faith walk is today and take positive action to grow your faith because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17):

  1. No (or dead) Faith – completely lacking in trust (Matthew 13:58). This can be described as faithless, unbelieving, or lacking trust and obedience to God’s Word.
  2. Weak Faith – feeble, diseased, and impotent (Romans 4:19). The person with weak faith is focusing on the problem rather than the promise and operating from the senses rather than the Word.
  3. Little Faith – undeveloped, lacking in confidence (Matthew 14:30-31). At this level, the measure of faith has been somewhat developed but is easily distracted by the circumstances.
  4. Strong Faith – increased in strength and power (Colossians 2:5). Strong faith does not stagger at the promise of God but holds fast to the promise until the manifestation.
  5. Great Faith – immeasurable in size and capacity (Matthew 8:5-13). The believer with great faith believes the Word of God in every application and area of life and expresses this faith with the words of his mouth.
  6. Perfect Faith – complete and mature in execution (James 2:22). Perfect  faith is a mature and complete faith that is evidenced by the fact that the believer ACTS on the their faith because faith without works is dead (James 2:26).

One final note about the levels of faith…it is possible to walk at a higher level of faith in one area of life and have other areas of life where your faith lags behind. Make up your mind to spend time in the Word to develop those areas where you are lacking but do not come under condemnation because you are still a work in progress. Your walk of faith is none of the Devil’s business.

*Thank you Happy Caldwell for teaching me these powerful truths several years ago.

Big God for Big Problems

One Old Testament name for our God is El Elyon. This name means the Most High God, the biggest of the big, the strongest of the strong, or the God that is higher than any person, any thing, and any other god. It’s comforting and reassuring to know that no problem or challenge can stand if we are in covenant with the Most High God. Remember to (1) look to the big God and not to a little imposter, (2) magnify the Lord and not the problem, and (3) focus on God’s abilities and not your limitations.

We would love to hear your story about how the Most High God came through in your life! Add your story by making a comment.